Striking gold

Guest blogger Conor Mark Jameson finds something unexpected outside his window…

I’m glad that others can vouch for what follows, otherwise I wouldn’t expect you to believe it. I’d even have doubts myself. I found a golden oriole. Now, that would be unexpected enough, but consider this: it was here in my Bedfordshire village, it was drizzling steadily (Jubilee Sunday – ask the Queen), it was very early, and I was in my bed.

The bird was calling from the willow opposite the house. Was I half-asleep, in the optimistic inter-phase between dreams and reality (at such moments Father Ted’s helpful diagram springs to mind), and merely thinking wishfully? Was this just a particularly melodic blackbird having me on?

No. Golden oriole for sure. I know this bird. It has haunted me since a boy, discovering them around French campsites. I even wrote about this in my recently published book Silent Spring Revisited. Golden oriole is one of those birds, the glam one that jumps out of the ID guides at you, the avian El Dorado with the name worthy of a James Bond film title.

When you find the golden oriole you discover that it seems to be whistling its own name, in the musical voice of a Clanger, and that this siren sound carries far on a breeze, and into your soul, from a source that is near impossible to pick out of the shimmering canopy leaves of the oaks and poplars that it frequents.

My Jubilee oriole soon had bird lovers descending from near and far. It stayed all morning, in the spinney down the road, calling, posing, hiding. There are even photographs. There have been other records in the shire, but none reported soon enough for anyone else to see. So the oriole made the day of many others, excited, chattering, grinning birders brightening that dreary June morning. ‘It’s a bird you dream of finding in your own patch,’ one of them whispered to me. I felt a swell of pride, for the old patch.

I also once wrote about falling asleep in a deckchair in Italy as a golden oriole fluted somewhere above and beyond me, lulling me to sleep, to dream. Last Sunday felt like waking from that dream to find the bird still here. A fitting visitor for a Golden Jubilee, and failing that a Diamond. Would that more of our spinneys were so jewel encrusted.

Conor Mark Jameson

Conor is the author of Silent Spring Revisited.

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